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Review: ‘Nine Lives’

The only movie opening this weekend billed as a family film, “Nine Lives” hopes to capitalize on the Internet’s favorite animal, the cat. While “Nine Lives” is certainly cute in a frivolous fun kind of way, it’s not nearly as entertaining as it could be given its well-known cast.

Kevin Spacey stars as Tom Brand, a New York real estate tycoon who is narcissistic, arrogant, and prone to neglecting his family, including his second wife Lara (Jennifer Garner), 11-year-old daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman), and 28-year-old son David (Robbie Amell). As the movie begins, he’s more concerned with putting his name on the largest building in Manhattan than his daughter’s birthday, but it turns out he does care about his daughter enough to go last-minute shopping before her party. Even though he despises cats, he finally decides to get her the one gift she’s always wanted — a cat. Fate leads him to Purrrkins Pet Shop, where an eccentric and mysterious store owner named Felix Perkins (Christopher Walken) sells him a cat, Mr. Fuzzypants. An accident happens similar to “Freaky Friday” and Tom ends up in the cat’s body. As Mr. Perkins explains, Tom will remain in the cat’s body unless he can figure out why he deserves a second chance at being a husband and father.

From there, “Nine Lives” hits one flat note after another as Tom adjusts badly to life as Mr. Fuzzypants. There are some cute moments and some funny jokes, but overall, this movie felt like it should have been a straight-to-DVD film. For example, more time is spent showing Tom try to break into his liquor cabinet and drink whiskey as a cat than on scenes where the cat actually spends time with his family.

Mr. Fuzzypants runs amok far too much in an obvious effort to gain laughs and, meanwhile, the movie loses a great opportunity to be meaningful. We’re expected to believe Tom realizes he was a bad person, but we’re never really shown why.

If you’re taking the kids to see this, there are some things you should know. There is some mild profanity that’s implied, such as “Son of a–“ and a few instances of religious exclamations. Tom also does a lot of name-calling, referring to cats as beasts and his ex-wife as Satan. There are also a few scenes of drinking, including one where the cat gets drunk (parents, please inform your kids that alcohol is actually toxic and can kill cats and dogs if consumed). There are numerous scenes of peril; in particular, a man deliberately jumps off a high-rise building with a parachute and another almost falls to his death with the cat in tow.

Also, the special effects are just plain bad. Considering the movie was directed by Barry Sonnenfield of “Men in Black” fame, I expected better, but if you have low tolerance for that kind of thing, brace yourself.

That said, the movie does have some good messages, even if they’re not as obvious as they should be. Tom learns that greed is bad and that being an involved father and husband is important.

Also, if you’re a fan of Internet cat videos, keep alert for glimpses of some of the most famous cats around, including Lil Bub, Nala and Henri le Chat Noir, who all make cameos in the movie.

Because the movie features a cat, kids who loves animals will probably love it and be able to look past its many faults, but parents will probably be left more than a little disappointed with this one.

“Nine Lives” is rated PG for thematic elements, language and some rude humor. It’s now playing in theaters.